Parker Wolfe Rips 1:52 Final 800 to Win Stacked 2024 NCAA 5,000m Final

Nico Young was 110m away from closing out a season for the ages with an NCAA outdoor title, but Wolfe was too good

EUGENE, Ore. — In a field full of distance stars, it was North Carolina’s Parker Wolfe who shone brightest in the men’s 5,000-meter final at the 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field on Friday. Four men lined up for Saturday’s race with an NCAA title under their belt, led by Northern Arizona’s Nico Young, looking to close out an incredible 2024 season that had seen him sweep the NCAA 3,000 and 5,000 titles indoors and become the first collegian under the 13:00 and 27:00 barriers for 5,000 and 10,000. And make no mistake, Young was brilliant over the last 800 meters, running his last two laps in 1:52.42.

It’s just that Wolfe, the 20-year-old junior who had twice finished second behind Young at NCAA indoors, was a little better. He ripped his final 800 in 1:52.10 (4:00.73 final 1600), timing his winning move perfectly as he slid to Young’s outside off the final turn and powered home to the victory in 13:54.43. Young was 2nd in 13:54.65 with defending champion Ky Robinson of Stanford just behind in 3rd in 13:55.00. NCAA cross country champion Graham Blanks of Harvard, who made a hard move to string things out with two laps to go, was 5th in 13:57.81 after fading over the final 200.

New Mexico’s Habtom Samuel, who won the 10,000 on Wednesday, led the early stages, but the pace was not quick, with the leaders passing 1600 in 4:34 and 3200 in 9:19. Even as late as 1200 meters, you could have thrown a blanket over the entire field as all 24 runners were still tightly-bunched together. The tension continued to build with every step until the field approached 800 to go, when Blanks laid his cards on the table and dropped a 57.28 penultimate lap to thin things out. By the bell, the lead pack was down to five men, three of whom had won NCAA titles (Blanks, Young, Robinson) and two who had not (Wolfe and Oklahoma State’s Brian Musau).

Wolfe took down the reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor 5k champs to win tonight

But while Blanks had hit top speed, Young still had another gear and seized the lead with a hard move entering the back straight. That was too much for Blanks and Musau, but Wolfe and Robinson were not licked. Wolfe had been in this position — twice — at the NCAA indoor champs in March, but this time the gap to Young was smaller and Wolfe had a little extra in the tank. Entering the home straight, he made his bid and opened a small gap, which Young could never fully repair.

Wolfe had to battle a side stitch for most of the race, and did not enjoy pinballing amongst the huge pack during the first 2.5 miles of the race. But the ending was just how he drew it up ahead of time.

Article continues below player.

“I knew the main players and I knew they were going to be there with two laps to go, a lap to go,” Wolfe said. “And it was just following through and then really just giving it a go the last 150.”

Pl Athlete Time
1 Parker WOLFE
North Carolina [JR]
2 Nico YOUNG
Northern Arizona [JR]
Stanford [SR]
4 Brian MUSAU
Oklahoma State [FR]
5 Graham BLANKS
Harvard [JR]
6 Habtom SAMUEL
New Mexico [FR]
Ole Miss [JR]
8 Jesse HAMLIN
Butler [JR]
Northern Arizona [JR]
10 Jackson SHARP
Wisconsin [SR]
11 Yaseen ABDALLA
Tennessee [JR]
12 Wil SMITH
Gonzaga [JR]
Iowa State [JR]
14 Brodey HASTY
Northern Arizona [SR]
15 Chandler GIBBENS
Kansas [SR]
16 Rocky HANSEN
Wake Forest [FR]
17 Alex MAIER
Oklahoma State [SR]
Florida State [JR]
Furman [JR]
21 Marco LANGON
Villanova [FR]
Harvard [JR]
23 Nickolas SCUDDER
Charlotte [SR]
24 Nicholas BENDTSEN
Princeton [JR]

Quick Take: Tonight, Parker Wolfe was the best of a very good NCAA field

Considering there were four NCAA champions in tonight’s race, it may seem odd that the winner was someone who had never won an NCAA title before in Parker Wolfe. But had it not been for Nico Young — who was in ridiculous shape this winter — Wolfe would already be a double NCAA champ. The reality is, there are a bunch of really, really good runners in the NCAA right now and there’s not a huge difference between them. Last year in Austin, Robinson was the best. In November at NCAA XC, it was Blanks. In March, it was Young, and tonight it was Wolfe. One top NCAA coach told us that any of the top five tonight would have won Wednesday night’s 10,000. And considering 10,000 champ Habtom Samuel finished 6th, there’s a strong case to be made he is right.

So what was the difference for Wolfe between March and June?

“A lot of it was trusting the process [coach Chris Miltenberg] has for me,” Wolfe said. “We get better as the year goes on, and indoors just is a big building block for us to get to outdoors.”

The race called to mind the 2018 NCAA final, another race featuring three NCAA champions (Grant FisherJustyn KnightAndy Trouard) that was won by a Miltenberg-coached athlete who had never won NCAAs before (Sean McGorty). The difference is, McGorty was a fifth-year senior that year. Wolfe is still only 20 years old and in just his third year of college (Wolfe was born July 27, 2003 — exactly one year after Nico Young). He may have flown a little under the radar because his senior year of high school in 2020-21 was affected by the pandemic. But Wolfe won the closest thing to a high school XC championship that year at the RunningLane nationals and has shown so far in college that he is the real deal.

Quick Take: Nico Young had no regrets tonight

After the race, some on the LetsRun messageboard were critical that Young — whose 12:57 pb is faster than Blanks’ (13:03), Robinson’s (13:06), and Wolfe’s (13:13) — did not try to attack from farther out instead of waiting until the final 300. But hindsight is 20/20. Does anyone remember when Young destroyed Wolfe over the final 400 in the 3k and 5k indoors?

Young closed in 1:52.42 tonight and 55.18 for his last lap. Most of the time when you do that, you will win the NCAA title. He just got beat by a terrific performance from Wolfe.

“I couldn’t have done anything more,” Young said. “…I’m very confident in any way that race could have gone. I was fine with it being slow. I feel like my abilities in a fast race or slow race are equally as good right now. That might not have been the case a year ago, but I feel like that now.”

Young has eligibility remaining at NAU but doesn’t plan to use it. He was mum on his professional plans but said a decision is coming soon.

MB Nico threw it away

Quick Take: Ky Robinson admitted he “wasn’t the best guy on the day” and will now shift focus to chasing an Olympic berth

The kick that powered Robinson to a 5k/10k sweep in Austin last year wasn’t quite there tonight, but he has a lot of respect for Wolfe and Young and had no shame in losing to them.

“It’s a little bit sad that that was the way I went out, but when you look at the two names that were in front, you can’t be too disappointed because those are the two best in the country and they showed it out there today,” Robinson said. “I wasn’t the best guy on the day.”

Robinson has cross and indoor eligibility remaining at Stanford but said he does not plan on returning to the NCAA this fall. Looking ahead, he will chase an Olympic berth this summer. Robinson was 5th at the Aussie 5,000 champs in April but right now Morgan McDonald and Stewart McSweyn are the only Australians with the Olympic standard of 13:05. Robinson will run a 5,000 in Heusden on June 15 and hopes that running the standard there will be enough for selection for the third spot.

Robinson, who has an NIL with On, did not share his professional plans, but said he plans on staying in the USA.

“This is kind of where the money is,” Robinson said. “A lot of the time when you’re going pro in Australia or Europe, there’s good money, but there’s better money in the US. It’s a mix of that and there’s some of the best runners in the world training over here so it’s easy to get some good training partners, get in some good races, and attack things.”

Quick Take: Graham Blanks was proud to finish 5th after returning from a femoral shaft stress reaction this winter

Blanks was the hottest runner in the NCAA at the end of 2023, winning NCAA XC and setting a collegiate record of 13:03 in the 5,000. But he did not race from December 2 until April 19 after a stress reaction in his femoral shaft this winter. Blanks said he is back to 100% now but his fitness fell behind the likes of Young and Wolfe during the 2-3 months of quality training he missed.

Blanks found great success by moving with 1k to go in cross country races last fall and said he wanted to do something similar today because it plays to his strengths (though he said he is also trying to diversify his tactics moving forward). Initially he felt it was a victory for him just to make it back to NCAAs given his injury, but after qualifying he figured he might as well go for it.

“I was like, fuck that,” Blanks said. “If I’m going to lose this race, I’m going to lose it on my terms. I wanted to do something I was proud of and I’m pretty happy with what I did today.”

Discuss this meet on the fan forum/messageboard

MB Official 2024 NCAA Outdoors day 3 discussion thread + Live Reaction Show at 11:30 pm ET
MB Parker MF Wolfe!
MB Nico who? Parker Wolfe takes down the 5000!!!
MB His Wolfeness

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards